I carry around this grief inside that I usually manage to keep tamped down. It crops up sometimes when I see pregnant women or babies, or when people not much older than me talk about their children getting married and having children of their own. It is all so normal for everyone else. At forty-five, my child-bearing years are all but over, and the emptiness of unmet desire is sometimes overwhelming. There is no one I feel I can talk to about this except God. So, here I am posting it on the internet because for some reason I feel the need to share it. I often wonder how my life got so far away from things I wanted most.
Not too long ago, I found out that a dear friend was in a serious relationship with a man who does not share her faith. I hope my response was as wise and loving as I prayed it would be. Even so, the situation made me start to question my choices. Was I really seeking to live as God would have me to, or was I throwing away opportunities? Five years ago, should I have gone out with the man who hit on me at the car wash? At the time, the choice seemed so clear. And what about the guy I went to school with? We were flint and steel, but I wouldn’t date him because he wasn’t a believer. He would have married me, and I could have had a family with him. The times I made bad decisions about men, it seems clear that God rescued me. Through the pain of rejection over the past twenty-five years, I can see God’s hand in those situations. So why am I questioning the times that I thought I was doing the right thing – the God-honoring, Christ-following thing?
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. . .that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.Philippians 3:7-8, 10-11
I heard something in a sermon recently that caught my attention and reoriented my thinking. It wasn’t part of the main point, but an aside about how we humans tend to miss what is most important. The pastor said, “we settle for lesser joys.” I realized that is what this is all about: whether or not to seek things that are ‘lesser joys.’ There is only one question in my life that actually matters: Do I believe that the greatest joy in life comes from seeking God and following Christ? If I believe that being married and having children will bring more joy than God, then I have made poor choices and I need to change my priorities to obtain the joy I am missing by not having those things in my life. But if I believe my greatest joy is found in my relationship with God, then I must press on to know Him more, and I must trust Him to be the source of my joy and to lead me in this life.
The Apostle Paul seemed to view marriage as a distraction from serving God. Certainly children must be even more so! Part of me wants to have it all, but I need to be content with what God wants me to have. My father shared with me that a pastor once counseled him, “If it already happened, then it was God’s will.” We are responsible for our actions, but at the same time what is done, by definition, could not have occurred outside of the will of God. Over and over again, God brings me back to the same conclusion: I am single because, to this point in time, it is His will for me. As I was mulling all of this, God gave me another reminder. When I got into the car to go to work, I turned on the music and right away was greeted with Chris Tomlin’s Your Grace is Enough. I had to chuckle at how God worked that. I hope I won’t be single for my whole life, but if I am, I know that I will be okay. His grace has carried me through to this point, and I know that it will continue to sustain me every day to come.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”Matthew 13:44
At my church, rather than using the phrase, ‘ask Jesus into your heart,’ we say, ‘treasure Jesus.’ The meaning of this phrase is seen in Matthew 13:44. If we discover the treasure of knowing Jesus, our response is first joy, and next understanding that there is nothing we have or desire that is of greater worth. Too often, this is taken for granted. Maybe it is our desire to ‘have it all.’ We think we can have the treasure in the field without selling all we have to buy the field. We think can put Jesus in our pocket and take Him with us wherever we want to go. But Jesus requires us to do a 180 and follow Him where He is leading us. I am sure I haven’t rehashed my past for the last time, but each time I do, I seem to land more firmly on the conclusion that I am where God wants me to be.